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QIN

Reviewed by: Herb Levy

(R&R Games/Eggertspiele, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 20-30 minutes; $39.95)

In QIN, a new Reiner Knizia design, players colonize the outreaches of China, founding provinces and absorbing remote villages into their growing empires, building pagodas to mark their claims. But not everything is as peaceful as this sounds because other players can conquer your provinces and villages, replacing your pagodas with theirs.

QinThe board to QIN is a grid that shows grassland areas of China as well as villages. (One side, denoted by “birds”, is the “easy” side, the other side, the “lion” board, adds water to the terrain, making for more challenging placements.) At the beginning of play, every player gets a set of pagodas in their chosen color (the precise number depending on the number of players). The 72 tiles represent the three colors of provinces in the game: red, yellow and blue. Like Dominoes, these tiles have two parts to them. Unlike Dominoes, however, each tile shows two province spaces either both of the same color or a mix of two of the three. All the tiles are mixed (face down) and each player draws three tiles as a starting hand.

On a turn, a player will place one of his tiles. There are three starting spaces on the board and that’s where the initial placement of red, blue or yellow tiles must begin. From that point on, tiles put on the board must share an edge with a previously placed tile. Placing tiles offers five different possibilities. And that’s where those pagodas come in.

You can “found a province”. This means placing a tile on the board so that two or more same colored province spaces connect. Founding a province allows you to place one of your pagodas on it.

You can “expand a province” by adding tiles to an already established area, making it bigger. This might lead to “creating a major province” by making a province of five or more spaces (by definition, a “major” province). You note this “improved” status by by adding a second pagoda (stacking it upon the first) there.

In addition to blank grassland spaces, there are also “villages”. If a province manages to share at least one edge with a village, the player controlling that province may “claim that village” and place one of his pagodas in the village space. Controlling villages is not permanent as another player can wrest it away from you.

“Conquering” a village involves comparing the number of pagodas of each player whose provinces border a particular village. Whichever player has more pagodas (and double pagodas counts as two while the pagoda on the village itself doesn’t count!) is awarded control. If this is a different player than the one who has first claimed the village, then the previous owner’s pagoda is removed from the board (and placed back into that player’s stock) and the new owner places one of his pagodas on the newly conquered village. (Incidentally, if both players are tied, control does not change.)

Finally, a player may “absorb” a province. If by playing a tile, you manage to join two provinces of the same color controlled by different players, the larger province will take over the smaller. The player who controlled the smaller area has his pagoda returned to his supply. Neither provinces of the SAME size nor major provinces can be absorbed.

After playing a tile, the player randomly takes another tile to conclude his turn. Play continues until one player has placed his last pagoda. That player is victorious! (Alternatively, if no one is able to get all his pagodas placed, play continues until no spaces are left on the board or no legal placement is possible. Then, the winner is the player who has been able to place the most pagodas. Tie? Then tied players share in the victory!)

QIN, at its core, is a pure abstract game with only the thinnest veneer of theme. But the entire package is aided by the first class production, particularly those nice plastic pagodas, which gives a bit of atmosphere to the proceedings. By offering a dual board, players can change the complexity of play as the “bird” side offers an unobstructed terrain (grasslands and villages) while the “lion” side of the board adds water (which are unplayable spaces), making placement a little more tricky and elevates the challenge.

Placement in this game may be somewhat reminiscent of Euphrat and Tigris (Spring 1998 GA Report), one of Knizia’s earlier designs and a classic “gamer’s game”. But QIN is much, much lighter, making it suitable for entry level gaming as the mechanics are easily grasped. Yet, the game manages to demand decisions be made regarding placement of both tiles and pagodas making QIN a game with enough depth and challenge for more experienced gamers as well.


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